Nets become 1st team in East to clinch playoff spot
The Brooklyn Nets became the first Eastern Conference club to secure a playoff spot on Tuesday after several results went their way.
Jeff Green's 22 points led a balanced Nets attack during a 116-103 win over the Toronto Raptors. However, Brooklyn's fate was sealed when both the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets suffered defeats on Tuesday.
Steve Nash's team is now one of the two NBA squads to book a playoff berth, joining the Western Conference-leading Utah Jazz.
"I think we have our eyes on bigger things, but it's a nice first step to clinch a berth," Nash said following the victory, according to ESPN's Malika Andrews. "For this group, facing all we've faced, to be in this position with 10 games left is very positive."
The Nets have been significantly impacted by injuries, particularly to their star players. Kevin Durant has been limited to 32 games because of thigh and hamstring ailments, while fellow star James Harden is out with a hamstring strain. Kyrie Irving also missed time earlier this season for personal reasons, which has resulted in Brooklyn's Big Three sharing the court in only seven games.
Tuesday's affair at the Raptors' makeshift digs in Tampa was a narrow contest through three quarters before the Nets dominated the final frame, outscoring their opponents 36-20.
Durant chipped in 17 points and 10 rebounds in his second game back from his latest absence. Irving added nine points for the visitors - his lowest haul of the season - and Joe Harris recorded 16 points and six dimes.
Sitting on a 9.5-game lead on the seventh-place Miami Heat, the Nets are all but certain to nab one of the six automatic playoff spots in the conference, with seeds seven through 10 slated to participate in the play-in round. Brooklyn now holds a 1.5-game lead on the idle Philadelphia 76ers for the top spot in the East.
Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry went 6-of-9 from deep to lead the Raptors with 24 points, while OG Anunoby contributed 21 points, six rebounds, and six assists to extend his career-best run of 20-plus points in a game to five outings.
The Raptors are 1.5 games back of the Washington Wizards for 10th in the East and the final play-in spot with 10 games remaining.